The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you are still a rat. Most people measure their wealth by how much money they earn, but I for one do not go along with that.
I think you are doing just fine if you have enough money to cover your needs without having to spend all your time working, and I think you are truly wealthy once you have enough passive income to cover your needs so that you can spend your time doing what you want to do – fishing, reading, playing with the kids, shopping, being with your partner – even if it doesn’t bring in any additional cash.
Passive income, by the way, is money you don’t have to trade your time for such as interest payments, dividends and rental income, or money earned from a business you own that you pay other people to run.
Sounds simple, right? So how come so few of us are in that position? Well, as I see it the big problem in today’s society isn’t so much how much we can earn as how much we think we need…especially when we are young adults. Our advertising, marketing culture is designed to convince us we can get whatever we want – the ads often say “deserve” – right now by taking advantage of their easy credit options.
Well, if you want to get into the rat race in a hurry and stay there for a long, long time, taking out a loan for luxury items such as a new car, a fancy TV or furniture is a great way to go. If on the other hand, you would like to eventually be wealthy, going into debt and having to pay interest to the bank instead of receive it is a disaster.
Wealth is usually a delayed reward for people who know the difference between needs and desires and are willing to put off buying most of their luxuries until they can pay cash for them. But don’t get me wrong here; I’m not saying going into debt is necessarily a bad thing or that people who owe money are guilty of financial mismanagement.
I was very lucky. My parents paid for my university education so I started my working life without the anchor of a student loan to repay. Unfortunately, that is not the way it goes for many people, but a university education can be a great investment and if you are actually interested in the subjects you are studying it is a great reason to borrow money.
But once you are in debt you pretty much have to join and stay in the rat race and trade your time for whatever money is on offer so you can pay off your loans. The important thing to remember, however, is that if you want to create some time freedom you will have to pay off those debts either by earning loads of money or by reigning in your needs.
I think it would be good for both our society and our environment if more people took the second of those options more seriously.